Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes people happy. It’s probably the most intangible possession anyone can hope for and yet we all desperately seek it every minute of our lives. Frankly, the things we think will make us happy are just a product of mass marketing. When I was still an innocent child I actually believed that God had made me like no one else, a one-of-a-kind and I was proud of that. I never knew I had so many inadequacies. It wasn’t till high school and after, that I came to realize how many things I needed to improve about myself. According to every bit of advertising I encountered, I needed a nicer car, a bigger house, better clothes, expensive vacations, straighter hair, curlier hair, whiter teeth, clearer skin, to lose weight, to gain muscle, softer toilet paper, cleaner sheets, fewer headaches, more profitable investments and even a different religion. Wow, how could I have been so misguided for so many years?
Of course, once I became well-informed I had no choice but to pursue the happiness that all that would bring me. So I worked my butt off trying to achieve the American dream. Sixty hour weeks finally yielded the financial status that would allow me to buy as much happiness as I could fit in the cart at the store. Those were some heady days, filled with a nicer house, a better neighborhood, fancier cars, expensive vacations and no time to enjoy any of it. Even when I was home I was consumed with my business and it took every ounce of energy I had just to keep it profitable for 20+ years. Shortly after 9/11 when 60% of my client base left me for various reasons I kept it going for two more years without a paycheck because I just couldn’t face the reality of losing it. There was no happiness in closing a business. It was the toughest thing I have ever done and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
It’s only now that I can actually reflect on my younger, less wiser days. I had it all wrong and I can really see it now for the first time. The time I have spent with foster children these last few years has given me a perspective that I was incapable of 10 years ago. I get to see firsthand what real happiness is and I will never find it in a store. Real happiness comes from people, nothing else. Every time I hold a little one’s hand as we walk to the car or I carry a baby to a visit I receive more joy and a sense of real meaning in my life than anything I have ever done. The reality is these kids don’t even know me, yet they share these precious moments with me willingly and without expectation. You can’t put a price tag on that and if you’re not experiencing that in your own life maybe you should give it a try. If kids aren’t your best thing then help a neighbor or the elderly or be kind to animals.
Every minute of the day that we can tear ourselves away from the TV, the internet and media in general is an opportunity to find true happiness with people. Do we really enjoy being inundated with reminders of why we aren’t happy yet? The absolute honest truth is this, advertisers are only interested in their happiness not ours. The more we buy their crap, the more they ratchet up the hype to feed our insatiable desire for more happiness. When was the last time you heard someone say, “You know, you’re pretty great just the way you are.” I’ll let you in on my secret. That’s exactly how I feel when I hold hands with a little one. They see me as just what they need at that moment and they never tell me I’m not good enough. Now name me one time in your life when a material possession made you feel that way. Don’t even bother racking your brain over that one, you will surely lose.
Please trust me when I tell you this, you can find happiness without buying stuff. You don’t even need the latest self-help book to tell you how, just do it. Find someone who needs a friend or a helping hand and make a difference. Take a dog for a walk, have a conversation with a shut-in, plant some flowers for your Grandma and then stop and smell them. Life is sweet when we take the time to share it with others. I can’t say it any better than Josh Billings, “We are happy in the world just in proportion as we make others happy.”
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content